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December 09, 2003

Wireless at ALA: Empty Your Piggybanks

Ouch! Based on preliminary phone calls, it appears both San Diego and Orlando conference centers charge conference attendees $4.95 an hour or $24.95 a day for wireless access. I have a second call in to San Diego to reverify these costs, which are at least a couple weeks old.

I'm somewhat breathless at these costs--not to mention suspicious of industry price-fixing. I realize a conference hot dog costs $5 because it is crafted by hand by sausage artisans hired specifically for our very own conference. Internet wireless, though, is fairly inexpensive to provide. The Philadelphia conference center charges $40 for an entire conference, and Monterey, which just hosted Internet Librarian, and which is not exactly in a low-rent district, charges $10 a day. This is a reasonable cost for what you get, and more fun than a conference hot dog (even if the conference center is making a mint even at $10 per diem).

ALA conference committee members, take note. When you're evaluating convention centers, cost out attendee wireless Internet access (if they are clueless and ask "cell phone?" or "exhibitor?" reply, "no, 802.11 for attendees"). It's not the only or the most important factor--but it's one to add to the mix.

Posted by kgs at December 9, 2003 07:51 PM

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Tracked on July 5, 2004 03:31 PM


"sausage artisans" ... hee.

A couple of questions:

How big is the Philadelphia Convention Center in comparison to SDCC? Monterey's center is so much smaller than San Diego's -- I wonder if a factor of cost is how big the network has to be and how many hubs need to be distributed around the function space to avoid major dead spots?

You may want to gather price quotes and anecdotes from other convention spaces and other conventions when ALA starts negotiating on this ... not just business/high-tech, but a number of science fiction conventions are also starting offer wireless to their attendees, and I know they're not asking their audience for an additional 30 bucks a day for access -- especially since the con itself doesn't see that money or get any benefit out of it.

Posted by: Eli at December 10, 2003 11:32 AM

Basically, if it's big enough to house ALA, it's going to be roughly comparable, yes? Monterey is a smaller setting, but that just points up the anomaly. $25 per person, per day, is $750 a month for individual wireless access. That's really high.

Posted by: K. G. Schneider at December 10, 2003 12:07 PM

Just at a guess, the smaller conference centers have to compete a lot more--there are a lot more of them, the groups that will fit in smaller venues are more cash-sensitive, etc.

ALA is sort of an anomaly--mostly not-very-wealthy, not-well-supported attendees, but big and complex enough (with all those meetings in particular) so that very few cities qualify.

In some ways, I'm guessing, the quality/pricing/services of the Convention Center are less significant than the number of full-service hotel rooms available within a 2-mile radius and the number of meeting rooms within a 1-mile radius (since very few conference centers, no matter how large, have more than a couple dozen meeting rooms--and ALA doesn't use enough exhibit space to grab all the meeting rooms in the very-large centers).

ALA isn't going to meet in Monterey no matter how wonderful the convention center is--or in San Jose, for that matter. The surrounding infrastructure just isn't there.

Then again, people who build convention centers aren't always that bright. Near the end of 2000, I spoke at a state library conference held in a brand-new conference center. That center had no, zero, nada built-in Internet access for its meeting spaces. Never mind wireless: This place didn't have ready-to-run access at all.

Posted by: Walt Crawford at December 11, 2003 08:27 AM

Walt, please. Ignore Monterey for a moment. I wasn't suggesting ALA would ever meet there; as a fairly well-read Councilor, I know ALA can only meet in a handful of enormous cities.

Put on your thinking cap. Now, think about Philadelphia. Why is wireless reasonable in Philly, and exorbitant in Orlando and San Diego? Because it actually costs more to provide wireless in Orlando or San Diego? 250% more? Come on... that's hooey.

Posted by: K. G. Schneider at December 11, 2003 09:07 AM

Ah. OK. I just misread your original entry. Not enough coffee.

Simple: San Diego and Orlando are gouging. And will keep doing so exactly as long as the CC managements think they can get away with it.

That wasn't hard.

Sorry for the confusion on my part.

Posted by: Walt Crawford at December 11, 2003 09:47 AM